J.M Coetzee's "The Harms of Pornography"
As the debate over pornography and its place in society grows hotter every day, several authors in particular shed a new light on the subject. Both their intuition and insight involving their beliefs can help the reader a great deal in seeing aspects of this debate that might have otherwise gone without the consideration that they so deserve. I believe that pornography is not only okay, but is allowing our country to take a step back and ask ourselves how far we are willing to go and what we are willing to sacrifice in order to preserve free speech and our rights to personal choice.
The argument over pornography is not merely the debate over right or wrong, but also involves the theory that its existence requires, or possibly even causes, an inequality between men and women. I ask you, how could something like pornography cause an in-equality between men and women when women are the major contributors to the industry? Who is going to watch a porn without women in it? Therefore, at least at first glance, it would seem that since women are actively contributing to the business of pornography maybe they should be criticized at least equally if not more so than the men who watch it. According to author J.M. Coetzee and his article "The Harms of Pornography", the real questions here are, "what is the difference between obscenity and pornography", and even more importantly, "where do we draw the line between the two"? Coetzee brings up a good point here. A point on which the entire debate over pornography hinges. What is the defenition of "obscenity"? An excerpt from a speech by Mike Godwin, Online Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, gives a good definition of obscenity in his on-line article: "Fear of Freedom: The Backlash Against Free Speech on the 'Net'".
Everybody more or less knows something about what qualifies as obscene. You know it has something to do with "community standards," right? And with appealing to the "prurient interest." A work has to be a patently offensive depiction of materials banned by state statute and appeal to the prurient interest to be obscene and it also has to meet one other requirement. It also has to lack serious literary, artistic, social, political or scientific value. That's how something is classified as "obscene."
Godwin states that one of the criteria for decency or absence of obscenity is that something must contain social political or scientific value. Is it possible that pornography is an outlet for people that prevents ideas that start out as fantasies or desires from becoming real? If so, then it's possible that the porn industry is doing us a bigger favor than we know.
In an article written by Donna A. Demac, the history of censorship, obscenity, pornography and the rights of "the people" are conveyed with a decidedly liberal attitude. Demac's article gives an intelligent overview as to the actions of various political parties, groups and activists that have fought either for or against some of the issues regarding pornography, and his article can be effectively used to defend free speech. The most opinionated and conservative of the authors included is Catherine MacKinnon, who touches on the thought that there is a great deal of similarity between pornography and black slavery. In her article "Pornography, Civil Rights and Speech" she states that "the harm of pornography does not lie in the fact that it is offensive but that, at least in developed societies, it is an industry that mass produces sexual intrusion, access to, possession and use of women by men for profit". MacKinnon approaches pornography not from a "moral" standpoint, but strictly from the "political" point of view that says pornography is a threat to the gender equality of our nation. I say she is wrong and that not only is pornography okay, but in many cases could contribute to the health of our society. I will quickly agree...
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